Our congregation is having some lively discussions about how to be good stewards of our church property in the city of Fairfax, Virginia. Part of the discussion is about how to make our building more welcoming and handicap accessible. We recently talked with an architect about ways to do that within the means of our budget. We seek to do it in a way that fits our vision and mission and also those of the other congregations that share our space.
The other part of our discussion is how to be good stewards of the two acre woods with mature trees and a meandering stream called Daniels Run that flows through it. We want to create a nature interpretation trail through our woods that can also serve as a place for spiritual meditation. A young naturalist recently designed a trail for us. The next step is finding several wheelbarrows and enough strong arms to help us lay down woods chips to create the trail.
To my surprise and delight I recently received fresh insight and energy for how we can continue to develop our church property. This past weekend I attended the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore and participated in a session called “From ‘Creation Care’ to ‘Watershed Discipleship’: an Anabaptist Approach to Ecological Theology and Practice.” Other participants got excited when I told them about our church property that includes a two acre woods. We have a unique opportunity to help preserve nature in an urban space.
A central theme of the session was that every locality is part of a specific watershed. The quality of life of the whole local ecosystem is tied to that watershed. This includes every species of plant and animal life including human life. Consequently, our care for creation is tied to how we use and preserve our watershed.
Daniels Run, the small stream that flows through our woods, is not completely healthy. It suffers from bank erosion in various places and it fills with dirty runoff water during heavy rains. Committing ourselves to learning more about our stream and helping to slowly nurse it back to health holds the promise that we will grow as a spiritually and socially conscious faith community.
At a recent church council meeting, someone noted that our church name, Northern Virginia Mennonite Church, is too broad to adequately describe who we are. Northern Virginia is a huge area. Perhaps by caring for our woods and the little stream that runs through it, we will gradually come to identify ourselves with our piece of God’s creation. We will think of ourselves as the church that meets by Daniels Run. We may further discover that our Anabaptist identity as people following Jesus’ way of peace will root and grow as a plant potted in this fertile soil.